Character Values: Where lies the truth?

Writing novels is such character-building stuff!

 A small part of that is made of values and how that affects the plot and the story. What is honesty? Not telling lies? Only telling the truth? Exposing all subterfuge?

 Socially, a totally honest person is a pain in the butt. Where do you lie on the honesty spectrum? No apologies for the pun.

 Do you never hide the truth, ever, in any circumstances? Expose all and any dishonesty, regardless of who wants to know about it and any damage the revelation may do? Even to yourself…

 Or do you always tell the truth when asked? Bringing attention to lies and misdemeanours can be your primary goal, but you make that defining judgement about the perpetrator’s purpose. Are they being untruthful for selfish reasons, for their own gain, or to harm somebody else? Therefore, you will also decide that you will say nothing when their purpose is kind or does no harm. What about when you are the one about to be exposed for a mistake of your own?

 Perhaps you tell the truth when it suits, but try your best to avoid answering questions that may harm you or force you to actually lie.

 How about mostly telling the truth, but white lies are acceptable to avoid unkindness to others. And, maybe grey ones to protect yourself from embarrassment, or even punishment, for some relatively harmless act that you did in a moment of foolish impulse?

Achieving some sort of balance… 

Then there are those that lie when necessary to maintain their own standing, to protect themselves in all circumstances where they might be threatened. “Not me. Not me!”

 Let’s crank up the screw a little tighter to where, if anyone is stupid enough to believe you, you’ll feed them anything that will get them to part with their possessions, money or whatever it may be that will give you an advantage. Well, if you are one of them, I won’t expect a comment admitting it!

 So, where do you lie in the truth gauge? Are you a truth-flasher, exposing anything and everything, displaying all, no matter how beautiful or hideous? Or is the truth made of soft and malleable clay, to mould as you will?

 Probably most of us are hovering around the white lie range. Accommodating society, trying not to be unkind or self enriching, but not prepared to expose any of the nasty little selfish thoughts that most of us have from time to time. Smile in lieu of glare, keep the peace, give no offence.

 You, as I did, may have had the blessing of starting off in life with parents who made themselves a good example. So; quite squeaky clean and determined to tell the truth no matter what, then slowly you adjusted to whatever suited the balance of natural inclination and upbringing, on the one hand, and common sense on the other. Most of us probably shade the truth to our own advantage. Or perhaps you were brought up in a family that treated the truth like bubble gum, popping it or stretching it any which way, so that honesty was not a word you encountered very often, until juvy or jail made you suspect that there either may be advantages to learning something about it, or that you’d have to lie better, next time.

 Mostly, I have worn my heart on my sleeve and suffered the consequences. When faced with what I considered to be an aggressive remark, or a bullying attitude, I have had my block knocked off because I might as well have had a sign across my forehead saying “ I think you are an arsehole,” despite the fact that I thought I had ignored them for my own safety. At the time I was astounded by the fact that they read my mind, but, for honesty’s sake, I don’t really regret it. Maybe, with time, I learned to hide my thoughts in the face of dangerous opposition. Less honest, though, and with that, a certain sense of shame.

 My never-to-be-forgotten honesty lesson was when I had smoked the last of my pocket-money before the term was up and needed more. I told my father that I’d lost a school book, and needed to pay to replace it. He eyed me for awhile, while I fidgeted, sweated and squirmed, then he told me they were struggling, a bit, financially, but he would try to help. He fetched four of the newest silver crown pieces (the oldest was a 1880 Victorian piece) from a collection that he had – called his rainy-day stash – and solemnly handed them over.

 Of course, I could not spend them. From boarding school, I wrote and admitted my lie and returned the coins in the next holiday I was home. And I’ve never forgotten. What an uncannily wise old bird he was, my old man. Mostly.

 Tell me about it, that lesson somebody gave you to nudge your decision about how much truth should shade your life.

About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 4 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom' and 'Medicinal Purposed Only', all from Southern Africa.
This entry was posted in developing characters, Shaping a writer, Writing novels and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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